Remember the Olympics? It was a happier time. Or at least, a simpler time. We all stood united, cheering for Team GB in everything from cycling to field hockey.
But one of our favourite champions to emerge out of the 2016 Rio Olympics was our Shero, Nicola Adams – the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title and the only female boxer in the history of the sport to have won every major title.
Recently she received the MOBO ‘Paving The Way’ award in recognition of all her hard work, and lay her commemorative paving stone at the gold post box awarded to her after the 2012 Olympics in her home city of Leeds. We spoke to her just after she laid the stone to see how she felt.
Congratulations on receiving a MOBO Paving The Way Award! You just laid the award stone in Leeds, how does it feel?
It was really special, it was an exciting moment. I can’t believe it actually! I’ve presented so many awards at the MOBOs over the years, and I never thought I’d be receiving one myself.
The Paving The Way Award celebrates people who are creating a path for others to follow. Is it important for young people to have role models?
Yeah I think it’s really important. I had to struggle a lot when I was growing up in the boxing world. We didn’t have any funding, there was no money for training camps or competitions so my mum had to fund everything I did pretty much, from travelling to the gym to going to training camps, or boxing abroad. It’s nice to know that the girls that follow now won’t have to struggle the way that I did, and that the mums won’t have to work as hard either!
Do you think your career would have been easier if you’d had a role model?
It would have been nice to have a role model. I guess it just showed the determination I had, the fact I wanted to work as hard as I did in a sport that I loved so much. I just wanted other people to feel the same way about boxing that I did!
You’re a big advocate of getting girls in boxing – what can they get out of it?
Nicola: You can get a lot out of boxing, even if it’s just for fitness and general wellbeing. It’s a good way to keep fit, it’s a full body workout. And if you did want to get into competitions there are a lot of titles to be won; European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic titles.
Is it good for you mentally as well as physically?
Yeah it does make me feel really confident, and it’s always kept me in really good shape.
You’ve talked in the past about experiencing sexism in boxing. Is it improving?
It’s improving all the time, women’s sports in general are getting a lot more coverage now. We’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s making a step in the right direction.
You’re a big advocate of BAME and LGBT representation, did you know you’d want to use your voice in this way when you started out?
I didn’t realise at first how much of an impact I was going to have, I guess it’s something that I’ve just grown into. I think now I really enjoy it, I enjoy inspiring people and helping people along the way. I never had that much help in trying to achieve my dreams so it’s nice to be able to help others.
2016 has been a big year for you – you became the first British boxer to successfully defend their Olympic title for 92 years! So what’s next for you?
I’m going to take a holiday and decide what I’m going to do next with my team when I get back after Christmas!
Go enjoy your hols, Nicola! And just so you know, you’ve even inspired the most exercise-adverse of us to think about taking up boxing.
For that and for so many other reasons, you’re our Shero.